Geographic Data for Ancient Near Eastern Archaeological Sites

Site Placemarks for google earth

Olof Pedersén

A preliminary set of placemarks (ANE.kmz) for Google Earth of a selection of the most important archaeological sites in the Ancient Near East can be downloaded here (as an alternative try right-click or ctrl-click).

Ancient Near East Placemarks on Google Earth with alphabetic listing.

ANE.kmz works with Google Earth, which has to be downloaded (free at When opened inside Google Earth, ANE.kmz gives, to the left, an alphabetic list of ancient sites and, to the right, on the satellite photo the same sites marked. For the moment, there are some 2500 sites with modern names; among them some 400 have ancient names. Additions of more sites are planned.

Ancient name is written without parenthesis. Modern name is within parenthesis. Most sites have been identified on the satelite photos. However, a few sites are only placed in the possible area, e.g. in a village with the right name when the site may be outside (if so marked with question mark ? after the parenthesis around the modern name). Question mark after ancient name means that identification is not yet proven. Question mark efter modern name (but before parenthesis around the name) means spelling of name uncertain. Two question marks ?? at the end indicate that it may not be a site but could possibly be a natural hill.

The preliminary work has received support from the University of Uppsala, the Urban Mind Project at Mistra, and the Excellence Cluster Topoi at Freie Universität Berlin.

A short introduction to the project dealing with ANE on Google Earth can be read in my manuscript paper Ancient Near East on Google Earth: Problems, Preliminary results, and Prospect.

New installation

With Google Earth already installed, just double click the ANE.kmz icon. You find all archaeological sites listed in your left panel of Google Earth under Places/My Places. They can be rearranged, deleted or extended later on by yourself. Double click the name of a city in your left panel in order to go to the site. (Due to a program bug, people having Adobe Photoshop may experience that this program tries to take over the .kmz file. If so, choose open with Google Earth, or open the .kmz file from inside Google Earth.)

There are two options after the first session.
1. You never save when leaving Google Earth. Then you keep your ANE.kmz and double click the icon each time you want to use it.
2. The alternative is that you save when leaving Google Earth when beeing asked. Now you keep the placemarks in your left panel. If you use this possibility it is important that you delete the ANE.kmz file because otherwise you will get duplicate names.


Two alternatives:
1. If you never saved before leaving Google Earth you can just throw the old ANE.kmz away and use a new downloaded ANE.kmz.
2. If you saved, you have all cities listed inside Google Earth. Go to your left panel and mark My Places (if you want to get rid of all there) or all the site names from the old ANE list (if you have more to keep in My Places). Delete what you have marked. Now double click the new ANE.kmz icon and save when leaving Google Earth, if you want to keep the new placemarks. If you don't delete the old ones, there will be double names on every site in Google Earth. Delete the ANE.kmz file if you saved the placemarkes inside Google Earth.

Until someone else comes up with a better, more permanent solution, these placemarks may be updated. Any correction or addition with coordinates could be sent to Olof Pedersén. No support is offered.

Water Placemarks for google earth

A preliminary overview of the waters of the Mesopotamian floodplain can be downloaded here.

Mesopotamian floodplain with modern waters.

Represented are Modern waters systems (Euphrates, Tigris, Drain), Islamic canals, Ancient waters, and Geological waters. It is based on my own survey of modern waters, some archaeological reconstructions (often Neo-Babylonian according to Gasche 1998) and geological water reconstructions (Aqrawi et al. 2006). The archaeological reconstructions of Ancient waters shown here are incomplete and provisional and most detailed in the Babylon area.

Click in the left panel to show the selection of waters you are interested in. Installation and updating work like ANE.kmz above.

A short introduction to the project dealing with waters especially in the Babylon area can be found in my paper Waters at Babylon.

Cuneiform Inscriptions Geographical Site Index

Rune Rattenborg

This index contains a basic set of primary spatial, toponym, attribute, and external link information on more than 360 archaeological locations (v.1.1 1 December 2020) where texts written in cuneiform and derived scripts have been found. Release formats are (as of v.0.1) .geojson, .kml, and .csv. All resources are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The index and its application is described in more detail in Rattenborg et al. “An Open Access Index for the Geographical Distribution of the Cuneiform Corpus” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (in review, submitted August 2020). The index is intended as a tool for students and researchers in cuneiform studies and related areas and as an aid to cultural heritage managers and educators in communicating and safeguarding this unique body of world written heritage.

Please cite as: Rattenborg, Rune; Johansson, Carolin, Nett, Seraina; Smidt, Gustav Ryberg; Andersson, Jakob. 2020. “Cuneiform Inscriptions Geographical Site Index” Version 1.1. Geographic Data for Ancient Near Eastern Archaeological Sites, Uppsala University Department of Linguistics and Philology. 1 December, 2020.

Versions v.0.x are prepared by Rune Rattenborg and Memories For Life: Materiality and Memory of Ancient Near Eastern Inscribed Private Objectsa research project based at Uppsala University and the University of Cambridge financed by a Research Project Grant from the Swedish Research Council (grant no. 2016-02028). Versions v.1.x and higher are prepared by the authors mentioned above and Geomapping Landscapes of Writing (GLoW): Large-scale Spatial Analysis of the Cuneiform Corpus (c. 3400 BCE to 100 CE), a research project based at the same institution and funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences Research (grant number MXM19-1160:1) for 2020-2022.

The current version of the index is stored with the University of Uppsala Department of Linguistics and Philology, hosted by Jakob Andersson and is available for download through links here. The index is supplied in .kml (suitable for use with GIS applications and Google Earth), .csv (for database integration) and .geojson (for GIS and web mapping applications).

Index field categories

This descriptive text is downloadable as .rtf. The index contains a total eighteen fields, namely one primary ID, five integer fields for accuracy and data links, eight string fields with toponyms, and two spatial data fields. Index fields include site_id (str)accuracy (int), cdli_provenience_id (int), anc_name (str), transc_name (str)ara_name (str), arm_name (str), fas_name (str), geo_name (str), gre_name (str), heb_name (str), pleiades_id (int), osm_id (int), osm_type (str), geonames_id (int),  cdli_legacy (str), lat_wgs1984 (dbl) and lot_wgs1984 (dbl). Coordinates given use the WGS 1984 geographic coordinate reference system (EPSG 4326) and have been truncated to four decimal digits. Site locations have been traced from archaeological gazetteers and web mapping services (e.g. Pleiades and OpenStreetMap) and digitally generated from optical recognition using current and legacy satellite imagery datasets in QGIS 3.x. Below is a description of the individual data fields contained in this index.






Primary ID. Each record is identified with a unique three-letter code.



A formal assessment of the level of geographical accuracy with which position given can be said to relate to the historical location in question on a four-tier scale, 3 being certain, 2 being representative, 1 being tentative, and 0 being unknown. 



The numerical provenience ID for the corresponding site in the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative catalogue, if available.



Common rendering of the ancient name of the site in question, if known, based on readings from cuneiform texts.



The transcribed name of the site as drawn from the principal language of the national entity currently associated with the record in question.



Arabic name of the site, if applicable and available.



Armenian name of the site, if applicable and available.



Farsi name of the site, if applicable and available. 



Georgian name of the site, if applicable and available.



Greek name of the site, if applicable and available. 



Hebrew name of the site, if applicable and available. 



The primary ID of the corresponding place record in Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Ancient Places, if available. The stable link will be[pleiades_id]. 



The primary ID of the corresponding place record in OpenStreetMap, if available. The stable link will be[osm_type]/[osm_id].



The geometry type of the corresponding place record in OpenStreetMap, if available.



The primary ID of the corresponding place record in Geonames, if available. The stable link will be[geonames_id].



All associated legacy provenience values found in the current catalogue of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative.



Longitude of the record location in decimal degrees in the WGS 1984 geographic coordinate reference system (EPSG 4326).



Latitude of the record location in decimal degrees in the WGS 1984 geographic coordinate reference system (EPSG 4326).